Secret to getting in all your veggies: Go VEGAN

I have a secret, which I shall reveal……one of the ways in which I get all my veggies in and learn how to cook with those weird ones, like collards and turnips, is that I go vegan.

Those of you who know me are saying “wait a minute, you totally eat meat”.  yes, this is true, but I also think like a vegan when it comes to getting in my veggies and I use a lot of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks to help me out.

Here’s my thought: meat is relatively easy to prepare, at least in basic ways.  I can broil, bake, pan fry, bbq, etc and get a nice tasty lean protein.  But I can only eat baby carrots and spinach from a bag so long before I really want something creative with vegetables.

I now cook dark, leafy greens, like collards or kale at least once a week, and often 2-3x/week.  But if you knew me 10 yrs ago, this was soooo not the case.  I was your basic American.  I though canned green  beans and canned corn were pretty fine choices to fill my veggie requirement, especially if I ate them with ketchup (yes, gross, I know – but I was all about making them sweet).

My mom gave me my first vegetarian cookbook, entitled “Vegetarian cooking for everyone” by Deborah Madison about 5 yrs ago when I started to seriously change my diet and wanted to know how to make veggies taste better than ice cream.

I give myself permission to write in my cookbooks.  I see  them as living, breathing entities that capture both the author’s perspective and my own about a dish.  Plus, I’m just a geek and like to make note in books.  it make me feel smart.

thank God I have a very compassionate husband, as some of my adventures did not turn out well…such as the lasagna which had about 5 lbs of mushrooms and a bechamel sauce.  I’m sooo not a French chef, and totally underestimated the importance of cooking fine sauces in a tender way with a proven method.   I think we went out to Mexican that night instead…..

So, I want to share one of my favorite recipes from this book.  This one usually comes out pretty well – even for first timers!  I modified it a bit from the original. It makes an awesome summer salad and you can absolutely go carnivorous with it by adding chunks of chicken or turkey to it, or on the side.


PS: other cookbooks I like are :”Greens”, also by Deborah Madison, and the Blossoming Lotus cookbook.

Quinoa or Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas

Serves 2-4, depending on serving size

½ cup French green lentils, washed
1 bay leaf
¾ cup fine or medium bulgur or quinoa
5 scallions, including some of the greens, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Grated zest of 2 lemons
6-8 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1.5 cups chickpeas (rinsed and drained if canned)
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1 – 1.5 cups chopped vegetables of your choice: cucumber, colored bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc
½ cup chopped mint

Cover the lentils with water in a small saucepan, add the bay leave and ½ tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes, until lentils are tender but firm.  Let them stand another 20 minutes.  Cook the grain (bulgur or quinoa as needed)

Whisk together scallions, garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil, paprika, and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl.  When lentils are done, drain them and add them to the dressing.  Press out any excess water.  Add the bulgur along with the chickpeas, parsley, mint, and vegetables.  Toss gently and then taste for salt/pepper. Can be served warm or cold.